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Bird keen to be considered a five-eighth

By Steve Jancetic 07/05/2008 07:40:50 PM Comments (0)

In what may have been a hint to NSW Origin selectors and Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart, Test pivot Greg Bird has officially declared himself a five-eighth - sort of.

"I'm just a player at Cronulla," Bird said.

"I'd like to think (I'm a five-eighth), I enjoy playing five-eighth ... I don't see why a player can't player a couple of positions.

"(Darren) Lockyer played fullback for most of his career."

And so Bird put forward his case to become a No.6 who plays a bit of backrow as well.

He has spent much of this season at lock for the Sharks, but Bird believes that's more by desperation than design.

"At the moment it's disappointing that we've got a lot of forwards out at our club because I'd probably be playing (five-eighth) there," he said.

"It's just that we've had injury and suspension just plague us a little bit over the early part of the season, it's sort of made it difficult."

Not that playing at lock has hindered his form, Bird originally selected in the No.13 jumper for Friday night's Test against New Zealand.

With Lockyer pulling out due to ongoing issues with his knee, Bird was shifted over to five-eighth, where he made his international debut in Australia's thumping of the Kiwis in October last year.

It's also the position from which he starred for NSW in last year's State of Origin finale.

Bird brings a tenacity and toughness not seen at five-eighth since Wally Lewis adorned the green and gold No.6 jumper, and the Cronulla star says he isn't about to change his ways.

"I don't really think of it too much as stepping into (Lockyer's) shoes, I'm not going to go out there and play Lockyer's game, I don't play that style of football," Bird said.

"I'm going to go out there and play my game, I play more of a running style five-eighth and I've done a lot of work over the last few years to give myself the opportunity to play five-eighth, just with my ball skills and more organisational stuff with the outside backs."

Bird's fire and brimstone type of play could be just what Australia need in the opening exchanges with players from both sides predicting a hot start to the game.

Together with Sharks teammate Paul Gallen and bench forwards Willie Mason and Carl Webb, there's more than enough mongrel in the Australian squad to handle the Kiwis.

While admitting players tend to get away with a bit more in the Test arena than in the NRL, Mason said he wasn't expecting too much foul play.

"It's international rules, it's a Test match," Mason said.

"You're not going to go out there and be stupid, you're going to go out there and play fair, tough and hard.

"That's the way we play, both teams. They're not dirty, they're not Pommies."

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